Aldo Rossi. The Architect and the Cities, an exhibition dedicated to the life and work of titular Milan-born designer and architect, will open March 10* at the MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome. The Alberto Ferlenga-curated retrospective, created in collaboration with Fondazione Aldo Rossi, will bring together and display more than 800 letters, sketches, photographs, models, letters, and various archival documents associated with the late lion of Italian postmodernist design who passed away in 1997—just seven years after being named the first Italian Pritzker laureate—at the age of 66.
Described in a museum press release as an “artist, intellectual, and builder at the same time,” Rossi, a progenitor of the Italian neo-rationalist movement who also achieved great success as an industrial designer, designed numerous completed works in Italy and further afield, including the Bonnefanten Museum in the Dutch city of Maastricht, the Scholastic Building in Manhattan, Disney’s Celebration Place outside of Orlando, and Berlin’s Quartier Schützenstrasse. In some circles, however, Rossi is perhaps better known as a celebrated educator, writer, and architectural theorist. Ada Louise Huxtable, the architecture critic and member of the Pritzker Prize jury, famously described Rossi as “a poet who happens to be an architect.”
Recognizing Rossi as an early global “archistar,” the museum refers to the exhibition as one that: “offers an opportunity to not only gather extraordinary materials, spread across numerous archives and private collections around the world, but also to reflect on the specific features characteristic to Italian architecture from the second half of the twentieth century. This is an architecture that has been able to anticipate and meet the needs of a wider world, and comes on the recent fortune of an Italian architect and intellectual difficult to fit into the stereotypical schemas of a rapidly evolving profession, an inexhaustible bearer of suggestions and ideas.”
The expansive archival materials that will comprise the exhibition were largely drawn from the MAXXI Architettura and Fondazione Aldo Rossi collections, the projects archive at IUAV University in Venice, Frankfurt’s Deutsches Architekturmuseum, and the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht.
“Starting from a central presentation of the materials that contributed to the formation of Aldo Rossi’s architectural practice and his cultural projects in a post-war Milan through to a display of the photographs of Enrico Peressutti, the exhibition’s itinerary is marked by drawings, projects, writings and archival documents that show both the complexity of a figure with multifarious and overlapping interests and the vastness of his relationships,” the MAXXI said. “Ultimately the exhibition explores a process of growth of an artistic personality at the same time ‘obsessed’ with specific recurring and ‘curious’ themes of the world.”
Highlights of the exhibition include over 40 models along with focus displays that draw attention to two of Rossi’s most significant works in his native Italy, Venice’s Theatre of the World and the San Cataldo Cemetery in Modena, which are brought to life in a gallery setting with original materials and photography by Antonio Martinelli, Luigi Ghirri, and Stefano Topuntoli. Also featured is the iconic Piroscafo bookshelf, which was designed by Rossi with Luca Meda for Molteni&C, which is serving as the show’s sponsor.
*The exhibition was originally slated to open on December 17, 2020. However, due to Italian museum closures prompted by the COVID-19 crisis, it will now open on March 10 and run through October 17, 2021.